We’ve always suspected that the ‘thin ideal’ is having a negative effect on our self-esteem.
Now, one study has proven our fears to be true.
Jean-Luc Jucher from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, decided to see just how quickly our body image thoughts could change.
He went to rural villages in Nicaragua to find communities of people who had never been exposed to the endless Instagram photos of ‘flawless’ Victoria’s Secret models and the like.
In fact, the people had no electricity so had never even watched TV or browsed the Internet.
80 villagers – both men and women between the ages of 16 and 78 – volunteered to join the study. Each person was asked to create their ideal body shape for a woman using computer software.
Afterwards, they were then shown images from a clothing catalogue. Half of the participants shown ‘thin’ women between a UK size 4 and 6 while the other half were shown photos of plus-size models (UK size 16 to 18).
Then the villagers were asked to create their ideal woman for a second time. The results were inevitable.
The people that had seen photos of thin women created bodies that were slimmer than the first they had designed while the ones who were shown plus-size figures went for a larger, more curvier woman.
The results suggest that just 15 minutes of exposure to slimmer women can shape what a person views as beautiful.
It’s not clear how long the effect lasts but we can assume that Western cultures who have been exposed to this ideal for years have damaged their self-esteem.
“One key sociocultural contributor to body dissatisfaction is the thin body ideal and its omnipresence in the mass media,” commented the researchers.
“The globalisation of the thin ideal in populations that are in the process of Westernisation and/or modernisation is all the more worrying given that it usually coincides with rising levels of obesity, and therefore renders the dominant ideal of a slim or underweight female body even more difficult to attain.”
A few tips: spend less time on social media and more in the real world. A lot of Instagram isn’t real; we all just need to realise that.
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